Saturday, March 1, 2014

The Desert in my Backyard


Carruanthus  peersii


Carruanthus peersii is a small succulent from South Africa.  It is a member of the Aizoaceae plant family.  This family was originally known as the Mesembryanthemaceae, and plants within that family still are known as the"Mesembs".
I have enjoyed growing the "mesembs" for a long time and always liked the idea of establishing some of them outside in my planting of hardy cacti and other succulents.  Carruanthus was not rated winter hardy enough to withstand a full winter outside, but I did want to try some of the mesembs outside just for the frost free part of the year, and Carruanthus peersii was one of my first outside test plants.  The photo below shows it enjoying the free root run in the open ground, and even flowering as a display of its satisfaction.  Unfortunately, that was not to last.
During one of my weekly checks of C. peersii, it was gone, only an empty hole remaining.  I was perplexed, and not sure what had happened.  Several days later, on approaching the cactus hardy bed, I saw something small and furry moving amongst the plants.  I sat still on the ground and watched a small cotton-tail rabbit moving through the area where several other mesembs had been planted.  After the rabbit digging and gnawing at something on the ground, I moved to the bed, the rabbit scampering off.  Another mesemb had been pulled out of the ground, and several others were partially eaten.  My problem with growing mesembs wasn't the winter cold, it was hungry rabbits.  Over the next several years I tried numerous other South Africa succulents outside in the ground but nearly every time they were destroyed or damaged by either rabbits or an occasional skunk.  I guess that's just part of nature.  Now all my mesembs grow in pots.    


  1. I think foxes keep the rabbits away from my garden but squirrels dig up Sempervivums from their pots. I have never tried succulents in open ground outside except Yuccas.

  2. I see an occasional fox but there are still plenty of rabbits. Another problem I have in the outside cactus beds is moles. They tunnel beneath the soil looking for worms and insects, and in the process damage plant roots. I often see one of my plants just sink out of sight into one of the mole tunnels. That's nature.